Jean Searing learned how to make rosaries while visiting her daughter-in-law in Germany during the summer of 2003. When she returned to the United States, she decided to share her newfound skills. In late October 2004, she and her daughter, Jeanette Richardson, founded a rosary-making group at their parish, St. Alphonsus in Auburn.
About 14 people have joined the group so far, meeting once a week to work on the rosaries, Richardson said. In order to accommodate parishioners with busy schedules or who don’t like to drive at night, the group has two meeting times — one on Wednesday evenings and the other on Thursday mornings.
The group doesn’t sell any of the rosaries it makes, Richardson said. Instead, rosaries group members made during the first few weeks were sent to be used in missions around the world, while rosaries made during the month of December were sent to U.S. military chaplains for distribution to the troops, she added.
“I think there are a lot of people out there who would like to have rosaries that don’t have access to them,” Richardson said, explaining the group’s motivation. “We enjoy doing it.”
“You feel like you’re doing something good. I’m learning that we’re needed, and it’s a good feeling,” added Margaret Newert, a St. Alphonsus parishioner who joined the rosary-making group shortly after it was formed.
Before she heard about the group, Newert had thought all rosaries were made by members of religious orders. She was glad to learn that she could make rosaries, too, and joined the group because she wanted to help the missions.
Putting together a rosary is not that hard once you get the hang of it, Newert said, noting that making the knots that separate the decades is the hardest part. She starts each rosary with one knot, then adds 10 beads for the first decade before tying another knot. She then adds a single bead — representing the “Our Father” — and another knot before beginning the second decade and continuing on in that fashion, she said. Newert usually finishes two rosaries during the group’s two-hour meetings each Thursday morning.
The group uses round and oval beads in a variety of colors, including green, blue, purple, pink, white and black, Newert noted. The rosaries made for the troops have been red, white and blue, she added.
Richardson said the rosary-making group gets its supplies from Our Lady’s Rosary Makers, headquartered in Kentucky. Our Lady’s Rosary Makers is a nonprofit organization that provides instructions and materials at discounted prices to member individuals and groups making rosaries for the missions. According to Mike Ford, president and general manager, the organization has approximately 20,000 members, with rosary makers in each of the 50 states and at least 20 foreign countries, including Spain, Kenya, Scotland, Israel and Singapore.
Members of Our Lady’s Rosary Makers produce more than 7 million rosaries for the missions each year, Ford said. In recent years, his organization has seen a surge in rosaries being made for members of the armed forces, he added.
“Rosaries are routinely sent to the military; however, during the time subsequent to Sept. 11 and (the United States) entering war, the numbers become quite substantial. There was also evidence of this during the first Gulf War and other times of crisis,” Ford said.
Rita Bishop, a member of the St. Alphonsus rosary-making group, said she thinks it’s important for soldiers to receive handmade rosaries while they’re serving their country.
“I think that (soldiers) would probably feel like somebody at home cares, and I think a rosary would mean something to them,” she said.